Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
EXCESSIVE ENERGY SPECULATION
“This weekend, Senator Murray delivered the weekly Democratic Radio address. In her remarks, she said that her last gas fill-up in Washington State was $4.35 a gallon. Nevada is not far behind, averaging about $4.15.
“I have spoken on the floor about gas prices on countless occasions, and each time the crisis has grown worse. Last month, we heard from a public school teacher in Auburn, New York, who has had to spend all the money he and his wife used to save for their children’s college tuition on gasoline. All across our country, billions and billions of dollars that rightfully belong in the pockets and savings of American families are being funneled instead to oil companies and oil-producing countries. That diversion of savings from American families to foreign governments and oil companies is nothing short of a national crisis.
“And when our country is in crisis, Congress must be ready to take immediate action. Democrats in Congress have tried to take action again and again. We have proposed both short and long term solutions: short term solutions to bring down gas prices now, and long term solutions to attack the root of the problem: our growing addiction to oil:
“First – we end the billions of dollars in tax breaks for big oil companies whose executives have been hauling record profits while we pay record prices.
“Second – we force the oil companies to do their part by investing some of their profits in clean and affordable alternative energy.
“Third – we protect the American people from price gougers and greedy oil traders who manipulate the market.
“And fourth – we stand up to OPEC and countries who are colluding together to keep oil prices sky-high.
“Unfortunately, Republicans have not been willing participants in the legislative process. They have taken their cues from the President and the Republican nominee that the solution to gas and oil prices starts and ends with more offshore drilling.
“Democrats have made it clear that we support more domestic production. That is certainly part of the answer. But it’s only one part.
“Republicans would like us to believe that the moment we open up more of our coast to the oil companies, gas prices will come tumbling down. The truth is, it would take years – even decades – for offshore oil to be explored, drilled, and distributed. It would do nothing whatsoever in the short term.
“We have expressed our willingness to consider more drilling as part of a comprehensive short and long term package, but Republicans so far have not been willing to entertain other solutions. We will begin this week by introducing legislation that would have an immediate impact on gas prices: legislation to rein in Wall Street traders who are unfairly driving up oil prices.
“These traders have no regard for the well-being of American families. The only thing they care about is their own profits – which they secure by bidding up the price of oil, buying huge quantities just to sell at an even higher price. They have no plan to actually use the oil they buy. All they want to do is buy, sell and repeat – leaving American families to pay the bill.
“Not all speculation is bad. Sometimes it helps the market determine a fair price for a commodity. But speculation in the oil market has gone on throughout the Bush Administration with virtually no oversight, and it has gotten out of hand. Experts say this speculation is responsible for 20 percent to 30 percent, even as much as 50 percent of the price we pay at the pump.
“Democrats have proposed legislation – the Stop Excessive Energy Speculation Act – that will set fair and reasonable oversight on this out-of-control trading. Republicans have said in speeches and press conferences that they agree with us that excessive speculation is a major problem. It stands to reason that this could be a chance for Democrats and Republicans to work together. But so far, we’ve seen more of the same from the Republican side: nice rhetoric, no action.
“We have offered Republicans a chance to vote on not just speculation, but the issue they’ve talked about for weeks: allowing state governors to decide on offshore drilling. We have made it clear that we are willing to compromise and work together on energy legislation that both sides can live with. They can offer their drilling amendment, and we would offer our own alternative. Both measures would receive a vote. That is how the legislative process is supposed to work.
“This latest Republican obstruction tactic has left us with no choice but to file cloture to proceed to our speculation bill. Otherwise, this important issue would fall off the legislative map. By forcing us to file cloture, Republicans are wasting precious time when prompt action is desperately needed. Perhaps during these 30 hours we must now spend on cloture, Republicans will decide to vote on speculation and vote on drilling. The American people will certainly be waiting to see whether Republicans are willing to take yes for an answer – and legislate on the energy crisis.
“In the near future, after our excessive speculation bill, we will turn to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program – LIHEAP. This legislation would provide immediate relief to millions of senior citizens, families with children and the disabled who are struggling to pay their home energy bills – a crisis that will only worsen in the winter months.
“LIHEAP has been highly successful, but the breathtaking rise in energy prices has rendered the program far less able to help those most in need. That is why this legislation is supported by the AARP, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Alliance for Rural America and dozens of state farmers unions and other organizations.
“The high price of oil and gas are making headlines. This LIHEAP legislation addresses those energy sources, as well as the rising prices of propane, kerosene, natural gas and electricity. This legislation is important now, when high temperatures are creating a health risk for the elderly and people with disabilities. But we must also plan now to prevent a major crisis that may come if prices do not fall significantly before winter.
REPUBLICAN OBSTRUCTION OF BIPARTISAN BILLS
“After LIHEAP, we will turn to a package of critical bills that have passed the House of Representatives, cleared committees in the Senate, enjoy overwhelming bipartisan support, but have been blocked by just one Republican Senator. Just a few examples of the kinds of bills the Republicans are preventing from becoming law:
“The Emmitt Till Unsolved Crimes bill: Would help heal old wounds and solve crimes that have continued to be unsolved and unpunished since the Civil Rights era.
“The Runaway and Homeless Youth bill: Would provide grants for health care, education and workforce programs, and housing programs for runaways and homeless youth.
“The Combating Child Exploitation bill: Would provide grants to train law enforcement to use technology to track individuals who trade child pornography. Establishes an Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force within the Office of Justice Programs.
“The ALS Registry bill: Would create a centralized database to help doctors and scientists treat and hopefully find a cure for ALS/Lou Gehrig ’s Disease, which afflicts 5,600 Americans every year.
“The Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Act: Would enhance cooperation in research, rehabilitation and quality of life for people who suffer from paralysis. Not only will this bill accelerate the discovery of better treatments and cures, but help improve the daily lives of the two million Americans who await a cure.
“Senate Democrats are not willing to allow one or two Republican to block the will of the Congress and the American people any longer. Republicans will have a choice: Will they join the side of the American people, or continue to stand beside one or two colleagues intent on blocking progress? I hope Republicans will join with Democrats this week to make the progress that the American people demand and deserve.”